(By Nathan Slaughter) It's official. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the United States could be the world's largest oil producing country in the next seven years.
Based on the report, the United States could surpass all other countries in oil production by 2020. And 10 years later, the country could be energy-independent.
Talk about your 180-degree turnarounds.
For the past several decades, the United States has depended heavily on imports to feed its 19-million-barrel-per-day oil habit. In fact, about one out of every five barrels the United States consumes each day comes from a foreign country.
But if this forecast is accurate, then the United States production could eventually outpace domestic consumption. So instead of bringing in oil, we could be shipping it out.
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Is this plausible? You bet it is.
In fact, the whole scenario sounds eerily similar to what has happened in the natural gas market. A decade ago, every credible analyst was convinced that the United States was running out of gas, and energy companies spent billions to construct import terminals.
Now, the United States has more than it can use, and those import facilities are being converted to export hubs to send gas the other direction.
The start of this amazing reversal may have already begun. Between 2008 and 2011, crude output in the United States climbed to 5.8 million barrels per day from 5.1 million, an increase of 14%. That's an extra 700,000 barrels of oil coming to the surface daily.
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The credit goes to unconventional reservoirs like North Dakota's Bakken Shale, where oil production has surged to more than 300,000 barrels per day now from around 3,000 barrels per day in 2000. And that's just one spot -- there are billions of barrels waiting to be recovered in shale formations across the United States.
And that's not even counting offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.
The powerful combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing has given producers easy access to oil that was once thought of as unreachable. And these new supplies could quickly wean the United States off of foreign oil.
So if this IEA outlook is accurate, then what is the takeaway for investors?
Well, the collapse in natural gas prices resulted from a supply glut. I don't think there will be a repeat with crude oil, but the influx of shale oil could certainly put downward pressure on prices or at least limit some of the upside.
But when you look past the upstream producers, there are entire sectors that could see unprecedented demand for their products and services thanks to North America's oil boom.
In fact, it may be one of the best ways to make money in the stock market in the next decade.
More oil exploration means increased demand for offshore and land-based drillers. It also means more work for pressure pumping and hydraulic fracturing crews.
That's one reason I'm keeping a close eye on Patterson-UTI Energy (Nasdaq: PTEN), an underpriced provider of drilling- and hydraulic-fracturing services, right now. The company is going through a lull, but it's temporary -- you can't produce more oil without digging new wells.
Patterson will be ready to meet the challenge. The company has upgraded its fleet with 107 new advanced rigs during the past five years. These premium models boast more horsepower, higher-capacity pumps and all sorts of other bells and whistles. They are just what you need when working in deep, technically-challenging shale plays.
Action to Take --> I think the stock could deliver a 50% gain within the next two years.
But more important, this new energy boom will have major investing implications for years to come... and now is the time to act, before the big money is made.
P.S. -- Right now, because of a bizarre event at the end of 2013, we could be headed for a major supply shortage in a precious mineral used every day. Almost nobody is talking about it, but 31 million Americans could be affected. There is no reason to be fearful, but there could be an opportunity for huge profits. Click here to view my presentation on the looming crisis.
-- Nathan Slaughter
Nathan Slaughter does not personally hold positions in any securities mentioned in this article. StreetAuthority LLC does not hold positions in any securities mentioned in this article.